A cold chill ran through the Playcrafters Barn Theatre at Friday's opening-night performance of Arthur Miller's 1953 play The Crucible; a riveting, partially fictionalized story about the hysteria that took place during the Salem Witch Trials in the Puritan town of Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1692. A group of young women are accused of casting spells, communing with the dead, and putting curses on children. The subsequent Salem Witch Trials, meanwhile, consisted of depositions, legal proceedings, hearsay, evidence (or lack thereof), and religious leaders of the day investigating alleged heresy and evil-doings involving the practices of witchcraft and black magic. Director Patti Flaherty delivered a provocative and captivating production that kept you interested and on the edge of your seat.

It was mentioned – more than once – at its opening-night performance that the Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse’s production of Diamonds & Divas: A Murderous Fiasco was the comedy's United States professional premiere. If we were supposed to be impressed by that fact, it really isn't saying much, as author Robin Hawdon's script would feel right at home with a group of American middle-schoolers. However, the cast, composed of many familiar Circa '21 favorites, injects talent amidst the chaos of this melodramatic escapade, almost fully redeeming an otherwise ridiculous affair.

Friday's opening-night performance of A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder at the Spotlight Theatre was hilarious, with a richly talented company of performers that blended together extremely well. This musical comedy was full of clever slapstick routines and catchy tunes executed by terrific actors who also have strong singing voices, and director Brent Tubbs did an outstanding job delivering a satisfying production that is sure to make you chuckle.

Is Nora, the protagonist of Henrik Ibsen's classic drama A Doll's House, a hero or a villain? Given that the play ends with her walking out on her husband and children seemingly forever, it’s a theme that’s been discussed since 1897, and one that the QC Theatre Workshop seeks to continue with its local premiere of A Doll’s House, Part 2, directed by Dave Bonde.

Let’s just get this truism out of the way: When a show has a swear word in the title (though we’ve taken the liberty of adding some well-placed hyphens for you), one should expect mature language. But if a little – okay, a lot – of swearing won’t ruffle your feathers, then the Playcrafters Barn Theatre's Stupid F---ing Bird is a presentation that will satisfy your needs to think and emote.

"All for one and one for all!" This is the heartfelt cry and motto of the famously swashbuckling musketeers that echoed throughout the Brunner Theatre Center auditorium in January 25's opening-night performance. Swordplay abounded as Augustana College's company of actors and stage crew presented the adventurous tales of playwright Ken Ludwig's The Three Musketeers, and the sword fights choreographed by director Jeff Coussens were superbly done, making for quite a lively evening.

The heartbreak was palpable at the Black Box Theatre's Saturday-night opening of Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill. Transformed into a quaint cabaret, the space featured a small stage with a single stool and microphone, with a bar (dutifully tended by server LuAnne Sisk), a three-piece band, and two tables rounding out the experience. And from the moment the lights went down, audience members were treated as patrons of Emerson’s establishment, whisked away from the Quad Cities, and transported to 1959 Philadelphia – for Billie Holiday’s last concert.

Here’s the thing: Any show that opens with a warning of “Please don’t shift your chair to avoid being trampled” is bound to be thrilling, even if, I admit, I was initially pretty hesitant about the idea of seeing the Prenzie Players’ Friday-night opening of Macbeth amidst the snow. But damn was this an exciting, emotional two hours in Scotland care of director Catherine Bodenbender.

Extra! Extra! Read all about it: The Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse is currently presenting Disney’s popular Broadway adaptation Newsies: The Musical! A high-energy entertainment loaded with incredible dancing and brilliant singing that packs a solid punch, the January 17 preview performance was already polished and didn't disappoint, and felt more like an opening-night performance as the cast delivered an exceptionally enjoyable show.

Missed sound cues, incorrect light cues, and a play within a play – so goes the Playcrafters Barn Theatre’s schizophrenic comedy (a work in progress), whose opening-night performance was quirky and full of mayhem. Anyone who has ever been involved in the art of theatre knows the process can become a crazy one, and this presentation gives audiences a firsthand view of what happens behind the scenes with a close look at rehearsals, a diversity of actor personalities, and an infamous, erratically temperamental director.

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